The Cult Of Romance is by turns a soap-opera, a tale of two cities, a portrait of a young woman straddling cultures and a searingly intimate interrogation of home, identity, love and belonging. It’s fresh and eminently readable. Laugh-out-loud funny and surprisingly tender.
Told in the first person with an authentic voice, this book explores many of the important issues that migrant families face… with the little twist that its protagonist looks on romance as a big fat cult that we’ve all brainwashed into. It’s a fabulous narrative idea and a great read.
Natalie Saab is your average Aussie born Lebanese feminist raised with an absent mother, a distant father and a suffocatingly hands-on Tayta (Grandma) who thinks the old ways of the homeland are the only ways to live.
One of Nat’s besties is getting married to a virtual stranger from Lebanon and so our flawed, awkward protagonist while her best to be a good brideslave smiling through gritted teeth and upholding her loyalty to the feminist cause.
The book is set between Sydney and Lebanon and does a wonderful job of moving between them. Ayoub’s intimate knowledge of both cultures shines through the text with gritty detail and vivid storyscapes. Smatterings of Arabic language through character chats and Nat’s interior monologues, serve as a constant and challenging reminder of the complexities faced by our protagonist.
The characterisation in this story is gorgeous. Beautifully drawn human beings come to life off the page. You can smell the garlic, hear the music and feel the warmth of the fires.
This book raises questions that stay with the reader a long time after the book is closed. It’s fabulous, layered and nuanced. A page turner with much to think about and digest – thoroughly recommended.
Title: The Cult Of Romance
Author: Sarah Ayoub
Publisher: HarperCollins $19.99
Publication Date: 4 May, 2022
For ages: 14+
Type: Young Adult